Second Harvest’s Passion For Produce program was recently featured in a guide published by Why Hunger called Cooking Up Community: Nutrition Education in Emergency Food Programs. The guide includes resources and information about innovative nutrition education programming in organizations around the country.
Passion For Produce was cited as an example and inspiration for others looking to create new programming. Congratulations to all of the Second Harvest staff and volunteers who work so hard to make this program successful.
The following is an excerpt from the guide.
The location of Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Cruz County, a key agricultural area of central California, helps define their assets and resources, as well as their uniqueness and success.
According to Brooke Johnson, Chief Operations and Programs Officer of Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County, location is key. Nestled in an agricultural area, “we have and cultivate relationships with agricultural donors— a diverse, generous, and robust agricultural community.” Through these partnerships, Second Harvest Santa Cruz County is able to distribute more than 50% fresh produce and advocate for “nutrition banking”— emphasizing and providing quality fresh foods to further impact their nutrition education programming. Therefore, partnerships with farmers markets and availability of fresh produce facilitate Second Harvest’s ability to provide healthier options to their clientele.
With the majority of the client population served being Latino, Second Harvest Santa Cruz County endeavors to integrate culturally appropriate nutrition information within their activities. Tip Cards in both English and Spanish are created and disseminated. These Tip Cards cover topics such as salt reduction, sugar content in soda, or vitamins found in different fruits and vegetables; they are written for low literacy levels. According to Johnson, the core of their “involved nutrition education programming” is having abundant and varied produce availability and their commitment to empowering clients to become peer nutrition educators, or Nutrition Ambassadors.
A six-week training course is implemented for volunteers recruited by Second Harvest Santa Cruz County Education and Outreach Staff. These six classes include basic nutrition concepts such as the MyPlate model, food literacy label reading, and how to be an advocate in the community related to nutrition. After these courses, Ambassadors are able to work within communities at food distribution sites to provide nutrition education and cooking demonstrations, encourage clients to make suggested dietary changes, and facilitate the food selection process.
Upon the completion of training, a celebration is given to further validate volunteer commitment. In order to facilitate the nutrition education activities, their bilingual and bicultural staff is able to provide knowledgeable support in implementing programming. Johnson exclaims that their staff truly makes their organization effective within local communities.